12 Ways to Banish Pests Without Chemicals

Use our tips to get rid of pests in your garden. Organic gardening practices like growing companion plants and setting out sticky traps are easy and effective.

Photo By: Courtesy of P. Allen Smith

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Photo By: Courtesy of Territorial Seed Co.

Photo By: Courtesy of P. Allen Smith

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Photo By: Courtesy of P. Allen Smith and Jane Colclasure

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Photo By: Courtesy of P. Allen Smith / Jane Colclasure

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Ladybugs aren't just cute. They're also eating machines when it comes to pesky aphids, scale, mites and mealy bugs. Garden and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith recommends releasing half of your mail order batch when they arrive, and the rest, a few days later.  Keep them cool until you put them on your plants, so they'll stay dormant. Once they're out, don't use chemicals that would kill your new helpers.

Praying Mantis

Praying mantis are fascinating to watch, and they're voracious predators that gobble up garden pests. They'll also eat desirable insects, such as bees and butterflies, so use them where they can feast on unwanted bugs, like beetles in your bean patch. Attach mail-order egg cases to a plant or fence, and they'll hatch and release hundreds of hungry helpers into your garden.

Row Cover

Lightweight row covers made of fabric allow rain, sunlight, and air to reach the plants below, but help keep damaging insects out. Keep the cover loose enough so your plants can raise it as they grow.

Cabbage Collar

Physical barriers, like this cabbage collar, help keep destructive cabbage root flies and slugs away from the roots of brassica crops. Cardboard collars made from paper towel rolls can protect vegetable and flower seedlings from hungry cutworms.

Ducks in the Garden

Not all gardeners are lucky enough to have ducks in the garden, but those who do know these quackers dine on lots of insects and slugs. These brown beauties are Khaki Campbells; owner P. Allen Smith says they're also great layers, with one hen producing about 200 eggs a year.

Leaf Roller on Canna

Leaf roller caterpillars often pupate inside canna leaves, damaging them as they begin to eat. Other leaf rollers attack fruits, ornamentals and shrubs. If the infestation is light, squish the caterpillars inside the leaves, or unroll the leaves, remove the pests and destroy them.

Drop Bugs in Soapy Water

One of the easiest ways to banish pests is to drop them into a jar of soapy water. Wear protective gloves if you're hand-picking bugs that might sting or otherwise harm you, or just hold the plant over the water and tap or shake it to dislodge the pest. These harlequin bugs suck the sap from leafy veggies like cabbage and other plants.

Companion Plants

Pungent-smelling marigolds lure some pests, like Japanese beetles, away from herbs and veggies. Later, you can pick the beetles and destroy them. Interplant garlic with other crops to draw away slugs (you may have to sacrifice the garlic). Nasturtiums attract aphids. Also try aromatic herbs like thyme, rosemary and mint as "trap plants."

Bulbs Under Chicken Wire

Not all garden pests fly or creep. Squirrels jump easily from tree to fence post to tulip patch, and these aerial acrobats are nearly impossible to eliminate. P. Allen Smith fights back by burying his bulbs under chicken wire, which also helps keep rodents and raccoons from digging them up. He cuts a piece of wire one inch larger than the bulb bed on every side and bends the edges into the shape of a box top. Then he sticks the edges into the soil and tops the bed with mulch.

Crushed Eggshells

Slugs, pillbugs and earwigs don't like crossing over the sharp edges of crushed eggshells, so sprinkle some around your seedlings when you plant. Diamoceteaus earth is also effective against many crawling pests. It's a white, talc-like powder made from the fossilized remains of water plants.